The Team

Nancy Chen - Principal Investigator

Nancy is an evolutionary biologist interested in the genomic basis of contemporary evolution in natural populations. Her research integrates genomics and long-term demographic studies to characterize the evolutionary processes shaping patterns of variation across the genome through space and time. Nancy earned her Ph.D. with Andy Clark and John Fitzpatrick at Cornell University and then did a postdoc with Graham Coop at UC Davis before moving to Rochester. She is committed to promoting equity and inclusion in STEM. Nancy enjoys running, hiking, cooking, and playing board games. CV

Twitter: @popgenchen
Pronouns: she/her/hers

Elizabeth Flesch - Postdoctoral Scholar (co-advised by Jay Rotella)

Elizabeth is interested in understanding how external forces influence population genetics across landscapes. She is using demographic and genomic methods to evaluate the spatial scale of dispersal and gene flow among breeding colonies of Weddell seals found in Antarctica. This approach will help identify potential drivers of temporal variation in immigration. Elizabeth earned her Ph.D. at Montana State University, where her dissertation addressed the population genomics of bighorn sheep in the Rocky Mountains. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, gardening, and hiking.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Daniel Seidman - Postdoctoral Scholar

Daniel joined the Chen lab in late 2022. He mainly studied computational biology for his PhD, with an emphasis on making new tools to improve or facilitate genomic analyses. He has a long-term goal of facilitating analyses of non-model organisms. In the Chen lab, he is looking into the Florida Scrub Jay, using the lab’s available datasets to investigate organismal fitness on a genomic level. He has occasionally made educational stop-motion or Claymation shorts, and is looking into making one for this lab as well.

Pronouns: he/him/his

Shailee Shah - Postdoctoral Scholar

Shailee is interested in the movement and dispersal of organisms in response to ecological and social factors, and the resulting group and population dynamics. She is studying Florida scrub-jay dispersal patterns on both an individual and population level. She hopes this work will help us better understand what non-scrub habitat Florida scrub-jays prefer to use for movement between scrub habitat and help inform future conservation and management decisions. Shailee earned her Ph.D. in Dr. Dustin Rubenstein’s lab at Columbia University. Her doctoral dissertation investigated the socioecological drivers of complex social structure in an avian cooperative breeder, the superb starling. In her free time, Shailee enjoys reading (a lot), photography and hiking with her dog, Gus. For more, see Shailee’s website.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Elsie Shogren - Postdoctoral Scholar (co-advised by Al Uy)

Elsie wants to understand how behavior, ecology, and the environment interact to shape the evolutionary trajectories of birds. She is studying a system of sympatric Myzomela honeyeaters to learn how hybridization and recently evolved sex chromosomes influence genetic introgression and speciation. Elsie completed her Ph.D. at Kansas State University with Dr. Alice Boyle, studying how the abiotic environment influences the scope of sexual selection in Neotropical Manakins (Pipridae). For more, see Elsie’s website.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Faye Romero - Graduate Student

As a PhD student in the Chen lab, Faye is interested in using genomics, computational biology, and population genetics to better understand how inbreeding impacts the fitness of small, threatened populations. Specifically, she is investigating the underlying genetic architecture of inbreeding depression: how does elevated inbreeding manifest in the genome, and what regions of the genome contribute to fitness, and ultimately, population decline? During her undergraduate, she used museum specimens to determine how hummingbirds have responded to human-induced environmental change. Faye also loves to swing dance, birdwatch, and play video games!

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Jeremy Summers - Graduate Student

Jeremy is a PhD student interested in the causes of population decline and the role of dispersal in demographic and evolutionary trajectories. Using population level demography, individual fitness variation, and population genetics, he is investigating how dispersal into preserved Florida Scrub-Jay habitat contributes to population growth and levels of genetic variation. Jeremy is also interested in teaching evolutionary biology with an emphasis on diversity at every level of organization and the ways humans shape and interact with our local ecosystems. For more, see Jeremy’s website.

Pronouns: he/him/his

Abby Eckert - Undergraduate Researcher

Abby is a current sophomore majoring in Ecology and Evolution and Environmental Studies. This is her first semester in the lab and she is excited to learn more about population genetics, data analysis, and coding in R. She is especially interested in conservation. Abby is looking forward to implementing what she has learned in her classes. Outside of the lab, she enjoys crocheting, taking care of her houseplants, sailing, and doing artsy things.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Alex Gaston - Undergraduate Researcher

Alex is currently a junior majoring in Molecular Genetics. She joined the lab in Fall 2022 and is currently working on a project looking at the dispersal and genetic variation of Weddell seals! Outside of the Chen Lab, Alex enjoys drawing, listening to music, playing the piano, and reading!

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Xuewen Geng - Undergraduate Researcher

Xuewen is a Take Five senior student majoring in EEB and Philosophy. She joined the lab in Feb 2022 and is broadly interested in how environmental factors shaped species behaviors, both in individuals and in populations. Xuewen is currently working on a project investigating hybrid gulls’ distribution and ecological niches. Outside of her interest in ecology, she also enjoys crocheting, gardening and reading. Xuewen is currently pursuing her interest in literature through her proposed Take Five Program: Dramatic Figures in Literature and Films, focusing on Horror and Fantasy Genres.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Xin Yi He - Undergraduate Researcher

Xin Yi (Cindy) is a current undergraduate sophomore majoring in Biochemistry. She joined Chen Lab in the Fall of 2022. Cindy is interested in population genetics and evolution and wants to explore more in the fields of environmental consequences that contribute to the changes in species populations. Outside of the lab, she enjoys cooking and playing badminton in her free time.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Kristin Hardy - Undergraduate Researcher

Kristin is a senior undergraduate majoring in molecular genetics and joined the Chen lab in October 2020. She is hoping to pursue a PhD in population genetics. She is currently working on a project elucidating the demographic, environmental, and genetic forces driving blood parasite infections in the Florida Scrub-Jay. Outside of the Chen Lab, she is a member of the women’s track and field team.

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Jenna Savino - Undergraduate Researcher

Jenna is an undergraduate majoring in Molecular Genetics and minoring in American Sign Language. She is very interested in how genetic variation affects populations and quantifying biological data utilizing various computer programming languages. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys listening to music and playing Minecraft.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Vanita Shih - Undergraduate Researcher

Vanita is a first-year student with a major in biology, potentially pursuing the neuroscience track. She is curious about the reasons behind population decline in endangered species and would like to explore conservation methods. Outside of research, Vanita loves creative writing, reading, dancing, and fashion.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Allison Tilburg - Undergraduate Researcher

Allison is a sophomore studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a minor in sustainability. She is interested in conservation and hopes to specifically work with sea turtle populations. She also hopes to pursue a PhD in Marine Biology and Ecology. Allison just joined the lab this semester and looks forward to learning more about population genetics and programming with R.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Blue Hovmand Warner - Undergraduate Researcher

Blue is majoring in computational biology and joined the lab in January of 2023. They have an interest in understanding evolutionary processes and population dynamics. Blue enjoys doing simulation modeling and computational analysis of genomic data. In the Chen lab, Blue is currently working with genome assembly and annotation. Outside of studying, they love reading a good sci-fi book.

Pronouns: they/them/theirs

Dashi and Espurr - Lab pets

Dashi and Espurr are second-year cats with broad interests including displays of affection, sleeping, and occasionally learning tricks. Dashi is our resident entomologist and wants to investigate the culinary uses of insects, if his lab-mate Jeremy would let him catch any. Espurr is specializing in botany and has discovered that frequent face rubbing with plants triggers a strong purr response in herself.

Minka - Lab pet

Minka is a springerdoodle who loves chewing on sticks, is obsessed with balls, and wants to play with every person/dog/cat she meets.

Gus - Lab pet

Gus is a rambunctious, teen-aged (in dog years) rescue pup who wants nothing more than to lie on your lap so that you are forced to write while he takes a well-earned nap.

The Chen lab is recruiting motivated undergrads, grad students, and postdocs. Please contact me if you’re interested in joining the lab!

Lab Alumni

Felix Beaudry (postdoc) - became a Research Associate at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

Tamanna Bhatia (undergraduate)

Michaela Burrell (undergraduate) - became a high school biology teacher

Jonathan Chow (undergraduate) - became a MS student at Georgia Tech

Tiffany Dias (undergraduate) - became a PhD student at the University of Michigan

Syed Ars Ghani (undergraduate) - became a Take 5 Scholar

Martha Hoffman (post-bac research intern) - became a vet student at Cornell

Bailey Jones (visiting undergraduate) - became a lab tech at Yale

Matthew Le (undergraduate) - became a MS student at USC

Lindsey Perrin (Master’s student) - became an artist and animal care attendant

Nandini Samanta (undergraduate) - became a lab tech at Harvard

Siddarth Seenivasa (undergraduate)

Gladiana Spitz (undergraduate) - became a PhD student at CU Boulder

Ceylin Zeybek (visiting undergraduate) - became a PhD student at SUNY Buffalo

Bo Zhou (undergraduate) - became a MEng student at UC Berkeley

Ph.D. rotation students: Maria Isabel Castano, Rose Driscoll, Matthew Lindsay


Reed Bowman, Archbold Biological Station

Andy Clark, Cornell University

Graham Coop, UC Davis

John Fitzpatrick, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Steve Schoech, University of Memphis

Susan Johnston, University of Edinburgh

Josephine Pemberton, University of Edinburgh

Andrew McAdam, CU Boulder

Andrea Townsend, Hamilton College

Jay Rotella, Montana State University